Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A SAD REALITY IN NZ CRICKET

Currently, it has been debated as to why Black caps have performed pathetically in the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka. In hindsight, SL deserved a lot more than what results reflected at the conclusion of the tour. For, statistical purposes, records go as drawn test, twenty twenty and ODI series. But, in all three formats, SL were well ahead of BC in their own den.

One of the excuses that touring teams, bar all conquering Aussies, make is the home advantage of the home conditions to the hosts in the face of a defeat. It is extremely heartbreaking that BC were not able to manipulate extreme cold conditions prevailed in NZ and consequent movement off the seam. It is a well known fact that SL are poor tourists in terms of results achieved off their shores. Only other occasion that they fared well was against one off test victory against Kiwis and coming from behind victory in a 3 test series against Rammez raja’s Pakistan by Arjuna Ranatunge’s team just prior to historic world cup win. To their credit, SL performed creditably well in England and now in NZ. Mahela must be a happy man with the results so far.

In the first test , SL have to blame themselves for being 50 runs short. Had they have these runs on the board, the outcome would have been 2-0 in favour of SL . In 20-20, had they not rested Vaasy and Murali , the result would have been 2-0 . Much anticipated ODIs exposed the inefficient, fragile middle order of BCs. Two games that they won went down to the wire. Had not it been for Trevor Franklin heroics and last ball four of Mason, SL would have gone home as not sharers but outright winners of the trophy. I felt sorry for Auckland crowd. Aucklanders always come to the Park and support cricket in this fanatically Rugby Union crazy country. Their passion is matchable to the vociferous crowds of other EDEN the EDEN GARDEN in cricket obsessed India. They deserved more than the meagre total put together by 11 kiwis.

There will be lot of excuses as POMS and BC are well known for those. But, for the longevity of the summer game in NZ, administrators need to learn from mistakes like their counterparts in Rugby did in 1990s when they continually lost to Wallabies. Quality of batting is apparently a big headache for them. This aspect has been highlighted by Allan Donald in his Autobiography. According to him, Kiwis and POMS are reluctant to move away from their comfort zones and as a result, have performed miserably. This is quite contrary to Aussies and proteas who quickly acclimatise to conditions which may be strange to them. As Aussies point out, they take all positives out of negatives. Reluctance of Kiwis and POMS to tour subcontinent and WI while happily touring AUS and SA has been quoted as their soft corners. Australia , on the other hand, keep raising the bars, adopte fresh approaches like conditioning programmes of the nature of boot camps in Queensland etc.

Having come to the conditioning policy, I reckon one area that went wrong for Kiwis is the blindly acceptance or copying lessons from Graham Henry’s book. I have got to blame the rotation policy for the poor performance of BC. The move may be wise and rational for a contact sport like rugby where injuries do tend to occur every now and then. Cricket though a team game, it’s success depends on individual performance of a collective. In rugby, you need 15 people to make a ball move. In cricket, collective efforts of individual brilliances make the difference. Under such circumstance, how wise is the decision to rest your number one batter and number one fiery bowler against who SL have displayed their fragility? .

Even if rotation policy is the panacea, Graham Henry can do it as he has got a very talented and ruthless army. Even if the top 36 are left out of competition, he will have another 36 to crack opponents . Such is the player base and the passion rugby has in NZ. The question that comes to my mind is “ Is Bracewell be able to find such luxury in NZ at the moment ? The great majority of star players of the current crop BC ( perhaps except Flem and Bond) are just ordinary players who are no where near the rest of the players in the best league. This prompts Bracewll to use his handful of important resources wisely. He shold have used his limited troops to condition them for the World Cup, against SL in the current series. Hopefully, sane counsel may prevail and BC will fare better against their arch rivals “ Aussies. It is no wonder that some Aussies are already interested in not the winner, but the team that will qualify for the finals. It is our belief that BC will fight it out for the pride of the nation and the dying interest for cricket in NZ

It is sad that the summer game is dying in NZ. The era of Hadlees, Cooneys, Chatfields and Crowes are just nostalgic memories and cricket fans miss 1980s (golden era of the game in NZ)a lot. Like in Rugby union and league, the future of the game lies in South Asian Kiwis, Islanders and Maoris with greatest respect to Pakehas. Administrators need to popularise the game among non pakeha population as well if NZ desires to be a potent force like trans Tasmen neighbours,Australia. Victory has so many fathers while defeat is an orphan. The only way to save cricket dying in NZ is success at consistent basis and it will be the only remedy for NZ cricket.

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